In V. S. Naipaul's novel In a Free State, what is the meaning of the first story's title, "One Out of Many?"

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In a Free State is a 1971 novel by Trinidadian-British author V. S. Naipaul, who has won many awards in his career.

The first story in the book, titled "One Out of Many," concerns an Indian domestic servant named Santosh. When he travels to America with his employer, an Indian diplomat, his visions of a luxurious life are shattered by reality; his money is almost worthless and he is treated with contempt. After a romantic encounter with a black maid, Santosh descends into guilt and shame, and flees as an illegal alien, taking work as a chef. Despite his minor success as a chef, and his marriage to the maid which makes him a legal citizen, he feels completely isolated and withdraws from society, abandoning his self-worth as an individual.

The title has multiple meanings. The most obvious is that Santosh, in his lust to life a free, American life, is just one non-American out of many who yearns for an ideal that might not exist. His experiences are disillusioning. Santosh is also "one" person out of many in the city, and he is unused to such disregard; although he discovers, and then discards, his individuality, he never quite concludes that his self-worth is dependent on his own actions, instead mourning the country -- and family -- he abandoned for a new country and family to which he will never truly feel connected. Santosh also removes himself from first his own country, and then from his adopted country, becoming "one" alone, out of many.


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